Failure, Disappointment and Frustration…. or was it?

We were set to pull out of the marina as the tide was falling.  I had 15 minutes to play with before the water would be too thin for us.  We waited for one of the crew’s family to come and say good bye and to meet us.  We had cut it pretty close, but we were getting out.

The morning was chilly, but nice.  The wind was clocking around though in the afternoon and I wanted the last of the north winds to take us down the coast as rapidly as possible under sail.  I knew if we waited until the afternoon we would be tacking a LOT to go to the Southwest.

At 0905 I put the engine in reverse and some friends tossed the lines to Nick, our new crew member.  He put the lines away and I began backing out and hit a bump.  Mud, and the water was thinning.

“Crap,” I thought.  Then there was a horn behind me where there had not been a boat a few moments before, and a shout from one of the marina guys, Norm, asking me to pull back in the slip.  I yelled back, “Trying to get out before I can’t!”

He said, “Pull in, they are going for a pumpout!”

Katy B, a large power vessel wasn’t stopping, so I pulled back in.  In a parking lot, the guy going behind you has the right of way.  So, I treated it like a parking lot and pulled forward, knowing full well we weren’t getting out now.

They cleared us, and I began backing and slammed into the mud.  Too shallow now.  Cut it too close.  Darn.

A quick check with the crew, JoAnne and Nick, told me we were going to try again.  But as tide was coming back in around 1300.  That didn’t set well with me because, honestly, I knew the winds were going to clock.  They really wanted to get going on our journey.  So, we ate some lunch, and waiting for Nick’s family to return once again this time to see us off the docks, and bring a friend who had come to visit them.

At 1315, we backed out on a rising tide.  I still hit the “bump” behind our slip and after a moment of hesitation, I brought the bow around and we motored smartly out of the marina with people waving to us, yelling “Fair Winds” and “Good Luck!”

The ICW was quiet, the winds were beginning to drop, but I hoisted the main as we got a little ways out of the marina to use what there was, about 7-9 knots to help propel us down the water way, along with the engine chugging along.  Engine was just fine.  No overheating issues now.

A couple of miles later we rounded a bend and headed into the Western Bar Cut.  I’ve done it a few times now in both my boat and Jay’s “Knot Working” so have learned it better.

Before we go on…. let me tell you another short story.

One week before, on a Friday (bad luck they say) we departed and wound up with overheated engine, rainy morning, crappy weather, and made it to the lighthouse when the engine overheated badly.  I called for a tow, from SeaTow who brought us home to our slip.

So, we’re not really unfamiliar with bad luck.

Back to the story.  This is the third or fourth attempt to get out of here and head south.  Each time, something odd has happened.

On this day, things were going great.  We were in the channel headed out, but now, by the time we hit the Western Bar and were under main sail and engine, the winds were turning against us.  We needed to go directly Southwest.

We sailed on, passing our friends Jay and Kevin who went out earlier in the morning when we pulled back into the slip.  They waved, took pictures and wished us luck.  We kept going.  After 30 minutes we were almost to the light house, to the place we’d had to turn around last time.  Winds were now fully in our faces on the bow.

I can’t change the winds, so I did what any sailor would do, I tacked and adjusted the sails and we took off at almost five knots.  I pulled out all sail, and managed almost 6 knots.  Good, faster than I though.  Course looked good, but we would be going right towards the shipping channel entrance, so I worked out a tack in the other direction and tried to gain as much SW direction as I could.  Not going well.

When we got to the buoy out there, we tacked back and headed toward shore. At the end of the tack we’d gained roughly 1/2 nautical mile.  Winds were picking up too.  Tacking back in another 30 minutes gained us another half mile.  On the third tack I realized while we were sailing well, it was not going to get us very far.   I started considering going back in.  Or going down the ICW.

Neither one sounded appealing.  And everyone voted to go on.  I restarted the engine and aimed south, figuring our computer applications told us winds would finish clocking back out of the north soon (by about 1600).  Motor sailing against the wind is not really my favorite thing to do, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Except today.

We were making 2 knots most of the time.  So I started “tacking off the wind” and trying to use the sail, doing shorter tacks so we didn’t head into shipping lanes or too close to shore.  We watched a gorgeous sunset and the Southwest wind had a long fetch before us.  After another hour, we were pounding into and out of waves, as they built first to 3, then 4 feet.

JoAnne began to get ill.  I’d sent her down to rest (she’d taken medication that was making her sleepy, so she was laying down).  Nick had gone down to sleep for a couple of hours so he could join me in the cockpit at 2100 or so that night.

I put the boat on autopilot, looked around and seeing nothing went below to double check on the engine.  Oil smoke was burning off the engine and filling the cabin.

At that point I decided it was time to turn around.  So about 2000 hours local time I awakened them and told them my decision.  I suspect they were both disappointed, but neither let on.  I brought the boat back around and Nick joined me in the cockpit to help me watch for traffic.

We slogged against currents coming out, and falling tides (again), into a bright, moon-lit night, looking for markers.  At the last moment I decided against attempting the Western Bar in the dark and headed for the secondary shipping channel, giving me plenty of water, but adding 3-4 miles on our trip in against the currents.

I contacted Jay and he and Kevin would meet us at the transient dock (after they determined there was a slot open).  We arrived about 2340 and tied off on the T-dock for the night, hoping to move in the morning.  Nick decided to go home, called his parents who picked him us, I connected electricity and we still had SW winds.  They never switched to come from the North.

The temperature was beginning to drop, but wasn’t uncomfortable yet.  About 0145 Sunday morning something awakened me.  It was the wind.  It had finally clocked around out of the north and was blowing hard.

It was the wind I was hoping would be there about 1400 the day before to propel us south.  I’d have taken us in at Little River or on to Charleston, SC.  Alas, that didn’t happen.

The next day early on, one of the other boats was coming back in under tow, the marina was a bit mad at me for taking up the only slot, but I couldn’t get in at low tide (and I was NOT going to get up at 0500 to try to bring the boat in after what I’d just been through, exhausted, bringing the boat back in the ICW in the dark).

Fortunately, we came up with a solution and put him on the inside against the bulkhead.  Apparently, they didn’t want to try getting him into his slip.  Though, a week before, SeaTow put me in MY slip….

So… there are some lessons here.  But, I’m not going into them all right now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll make my own decisions from now on about moving the boat, no one tells me.  We go when *I* know it is ready.  Not before, not after.  I’ll wait for a good weather window, not an “OK” weather window.  I won’t start off again without having the right tides in the right places… and so many other seamanship things I already KNOW I should do, and discounted some of them.

Never again.

Today, it’s 18 degrees here.  We’d have been near Charleston, SC, with no heat (very little, propane heater, wood stove are insufficient at sea).  We have electric heating on the boat right now, but requires AC power.  Only have that running generator or shore power.

After all was said and done, I made the correct decision to come back in because had I not, three of us would have been exhausted, tired and freezing, and perhaps a danger to ourselves and others.

Apparently, some delays are simply meant to be.

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